The tempo told the story.
When the Altoona boys basketball team could get out and run, the Rails put up points quickly.
And when methodical McDonell could work for its shot down low or from the perimeter, the Macks were hard to handle.
Down the stretch it was more fast than slow as the Rails pulled away to a 74-64 victory over the Macks on Friday in a showdown of Western Cloverbelt Conference leaders at McDonell.
Eion Kressin led McDonell (8-2, 4-1) in scoring with 23 points, 16 coming in the first half as the 6-foot-5 forward was lethal down low for the Rails. But Altoona (7-1, 5-0) made adjustments in the second half to quicken the pace and add more ball pressure, making it tougher to get passes inside. The Rails held the Macks to one made basket for a stretch of five minutes and 35 seconds in the second half, extending a 55-53 lead to a 66-55 advantage on the way to taking sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
"We didn't really want the score in the 70s," McDonell coach Adam Schilling said. "We thought we had to keep them down in the 60s to have a chance to win and we weren't able to do that."
Brayden Turk led Altoona with 23 points with 15 of those coming in the second half where the Rails outscored the Macks 40-34.
"We give a lot of credit to Chippewa Falls McDonell tonight. They came out to battle," Altoona coach Paul Henrichs said. "We knew this game was going to be tough, especially on the road with both of us being undefeated (in league play). It was a fun one and we found ways to do the little things at the end. They jumped off at the beginning of the game, we found a way to battle back and take control at the end."
The 74 points allowed were a season high for McDonell.
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Early on Kressin scored points at will in the post with 10 points in the first 5:47 as the Macks raced out to a 14-5 lead. Altoona cut into the lead before a late 7-0 run helped the Rails take a 34-30 lead into half.
"We had help on the inside (in the second half against Kressin)," Henrichs said. "I tell you he absolutely dominated the first part of the game, so we had to find ways to take him out of there and we looked to double off certain guys and that set the tone.
"The other part was we looked up ball pressure to make it a little bit harder to pass it in. When they dribble down the court and pass it right in we can't stop him so we had to adjust that and that's our game to get up and down."
Jake Siegenthaler finished with 12 points and scored the first 10 of the second half for the Macks, briefly giving the team a 40-39 lead after his second of three 3-pointers in the game. Turk offered an immediate answer with a triple at the 13:24 mark to put the Rails back out front 42-40 and that shot would be the start of a 10-0 run to push the Altoona lead to 49-40. The Macks got back to within one at 53-52 with 8:22 to go on a Max Hauser 3-pointer but that would be as close as they got the rest of the way.
Hauser hit three 3-pointers in the game and finished with nine points as he and Siegenthaler accounted for all five of McDonell's 3-point baskets.
"We encouraged Jake to be a lot more aggressive. We need him scoring a lot and Max has really been solid for us," Schilling said. "He's shooting the ball well. He doesn't really make any mistakes when he's out there and plays great defense. Right now we need some guys to separate themselves a little bit and get some more consistency so we know what they can do."
McDonell slips into a second place tie with Eau Claire Regis with a matchup against the Ramblers on deck next Thursday.